The Developers Kept Saying Story Points
I sat in a meeting recently, with a group of developers discussing what we had accomplished at work that week. We went around the room, dishing out numbers for different projects we were working on and I noticed something strange. The developers kept on telling the group how many “story points” they had done. I think I should point out that I am not a developer and their lingo is still somewhat foreign to me. I was intrigued. Part of me knew a story point probably wasn’t very interesting, but another part of me imagined the developers putting together plots and storylines for a Dungeons and Dragons quest. So what are story points used for?
Story Points are a Strange Unit of Measurement
I guess anything new can be a little strange, and story points were strange to me. I talked with David Sutherland, one of our awesome developers, and asked him what story points were. (We actually made a video about them. I’ll post it at the end of the blog). Anyway, David told me that story points are a way for developers to measure the amount of work they need to do. Before the developers start building an app for a client, they need to be able to give the client an estimate of how much the app will cost to make. Apparently, as I found out in my research, estimating how much time it takes to develop an app, is a notoriously difficult thing to do. Difficult enough, in fact, that app developers worldwide have adopted story points as a unit to measure the work needed to build apps.
How are Story Points Calculated?
It’s easier for developers to estimate the number of steps it’ll take to make an app, than it is to estimate the amount of time it’ll take to build said app. They’ll break the project down into smaller steps and assign those steps (or tasks) a number. A task with a higher number, will most likely take longer to complete, than a task that is assigned a lower number. It gets trickier though. There’s a level of uncertainty associated with any task that needs to be completed. This means that when a developer is working on a step, they won’t know how long it will take to complete, until they’ve actually started working on it. The reason for this is because unforeseen challenges can arise that will slow down the process. I should probably note that a task or step with more uncertainty is given a higher story point value. Different development teams attach different time lengths to story points, but it can work something like this: 1 story point = .5-2 hours, 2 story points = 2-4 hours, 3 story points = 4-8 hours, 5 story points = 8-20 hours.
Why do They do This?
So why then, do developers spend so much energy trying to accurately estimate work? The answer is money. In the video David and I made, I had already figured out why this was important, but I asked him anyway, why these estimates were so critical. He told me, that underestimating the time needed to build the app, would result in the client spending more money on the app than initially budgeted. On the other hand, if the project was overestimated, the higher price could scare customers away. Hence, being able to accurately estimate the amount of work/time needed to build the app is entirely necessary to make sure we don’t overcharge the client.
Our team of developers are highly skilled in both programming AND estimating story points, so they can build your business a quality app at an affordable price. If you have an idea for an app you’d like us to build, contact us.